Written by: Ian Hamilton
The Christian Faith is deeply and necessarily ‘incarnational.’ “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us,” John tells us. “He was manifested in the flesh,” wrote Paul. Even more daringly, he tells us that God sent “his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh.” Our Lord Jesus Christ was no phantom. His humanity was real. In the womb of the Virgin Mary he was sustained by her body. In his infancy he was suckled at her breast. In his growing years “he learned obedience through what he suffered.”
In his time of public ministry we read of his weariness, his thirst, his sense of aloneness. And on the cross, he suffered as no man has ever suffered. Our Saviour was not excused the pains and the rigours of our humanity as he identified with us in order to save us. As our covenant Head, he had come to undo our tragedy in Adam, and only as God’s “last Adam” could he do that. It was real blood that flowed from his hands and side.
But our Lord Jesus not only became flesh in the midst of the brokenness and fallenness of our world. He dwelt among us; “full of grace and truth” indeed, but in our midst. Not only was there a community of nature in the incarnation, there was a community of geography: He came to where we were. Salvation would not be, and could not be, by remote control. He walked where we walk. He was exposed to the same struggles and temptations as we are (Hebrews 4:15). He now knows our frame, not by observation from heaven, but by experience on earth.
Why mention these precious truths? For two reasons. First, to elevate our minds amidst the avalanche of nonsense that deluges our nation during the Christmas season. We can so easily allow the incessant clamour of the age to deafen us to the bitter-sweet strains of the true Christmas message – “And the Word became flesh.” What wonder. What unfathomable glory. Our “God contracted to a span; incomprehensibly made man” – and all for us! I have a second reason, perhaps an even more pressing reason: He became flesh and dwelt among us; he stooped down to where we were. He became enmeshed in the squalor, the brokenness, the darkness of our humanity. He was not excused the deprivations; indeed, he set his sights on them. Where does all this leave us this Christmas? What do we know of truly incarnational religion? How acquainted are any of us with the squalor and brokenness of our world? “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us – is our Saviour not our Pattern and Pioneer in all things? He abandoned all that was comfortable, all that was familiar, and that was pleasing, to seek our eternal good. Is this not our calling, to “go into all the world and make disciples?” To go to the unfamiliar, the uncomfortable, the displeasing, and to do so “all for love’s sake?”
We are all different. The Lord has set us where he has. We all do not have the same opportunities, or even the same freedom, to lay aside our pleasing privileges to seek after the lost sheep of Christ. But we can all cultivate the mind of Christ and grasp every opportunity that comes our way to “seek not our own.” If we do, by God’s grace, seek the mind of Christ, surely we will be armoured (in some measure) against the spirit of Christmas, which is the spirit of self-pampering, not the blessed Christlike spirit of self-abasement.
This is not an attempt to put a spoke in family and church fun and fellowship. Holidays are a great time for Christians to have fun arid fellowship. It is, however, a plea that we do so remembering Him “who for our sakes became poor, so that we through his poverty might become rich.”
The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. He is God’s “indescribable gift.” If anything, that is the Christian message of Christmas.